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Dante for fun: kids books that retell the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso


As mentioned, I'm in Florence, Italy with my daughter for a speaking gig. We toured the Palazzo Vecchio on the first day, and happened on a bust of Dante, and I began to explain the story of Dante, his exile, and the way he damned all his enemies to the most grotesque tortures in his epic poem. My kid was fascinated -- being sentenced to an eternity to boil, head down, in a lake of filthy blood, is pretty fascinating when you're six!

When we got to the gift-shop, we discovered an improbable set of childrens' picture books that retell Dante for young people: it's called "Dante for fun" and it comes in three volumes (naturally): Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.

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Indian readers sue Penguin for copyright to book that is to be pulped due to religious fundamentalists' campaign

Robert Sharp writes, "A group of readers have launched a legal challenge to Penguin, saying: 'You're not using your copyright responsibly - please turn it over to us'! They're angry that Penguin is no longer defending a legal dispute against fundamentalists and will pulp remaining copies of the book 'The Hindus'."

The readers are represented by Lawrence Liang and the Bangalore-based Alternative Law Forum.

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Parents of Buddhist student sue "Bible Belt" Louisiana school over forced prayer, religious discrimination

The ACLU is representing Scott and Sharon Lane, the parents of a child known in the proceedings as "CC," in a case against the Sabine Parish, Louisiana School Board, where their child was ridiculed for his Buddhist faith, and was forced to endure Christian indoctrination, including forced prayer, in the class. They say that their son's sixth grade curriculum included exam questions like "ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (the correct answer was "LORD"). The school superintendent told them that they had no business being upset by this, because the school is in the Bible Belt, and he recommended sending the child to a school 25 miles away where there were "more Asians."

The ACLU is calling on supporters of the Lanes and CC to sign a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for a "an immediate investigation into unlawful religious discrimination in Sabine Parish public schools."

To the right, the charming logo of Negreet High, whose school team is the "Negreet Indians."

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The irrefutable link between Dungeons and Dragons and human sacrifice

Christian Nightmares turned up this classic video in which a young Satanist recounts how heavy metal and Dungeons and Dragons led him to a life in a cult where "breeders" made babies for sacrifice to his Satanic Majesty. Refute that, skeptics!

Satanism Unmasked Dungeons & Dragons (Thanks, Christian Nightmares!)

Skeletal tile-mosaic in the chapel floor


The Cornaro Chapel at the Santa Maria della Vittoria church in Rome sports many beautiful works of art, but I'm especially taken by the skeletal figure set into the floor tiles, whose upraised arms seem ready to snatch sinners into the underworld. The photo above was taken by Chris and memorialized in a fabulous post on Roman Patina, which also includes photos of many of the other works in the chapel.

Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria (via Kadrey)

Pope Francis on the Internet and communication


Pope Francis's Message for World Communication Day addressed itself to the Internet's place in Catholic society and the wider world. David Weinberger -- an "agno-atheistical Jew who lives in solidarity with an Orthodox community" who has a long track record of saying smart things about the Internet -- has a very good commentary on the Pope's words, which he found to be in the spirit of the best the Internet has to offer.

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Stamping Chinese banknotes with censorship-busting QR codes


An anonymous anti-censorship group is stamping Chinese banknotes with a QR code and the message "Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall." The stamps encode a URL for Freegate, a firewall-busting service. The stamps are widely suspected to be the work of Falun Gong, an outlawed religious sect that has a long history of supplying anti-censorship technology inside of mainland China, both to supply access to its own censored websites and to advertise the virtues of its belief-system to Chinese Internet users who are more interested in beating censorship than religion.

The money-stamping story has been big news in China, even attracting reportage in state-run media, where the comment-sections are full of Chinese Internet users complaining that the photos of the stamped money are too low-rez to be scanned in.

This isn't the first time that anti-corruption messages have been circulated through defaced currency: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame runs the Stamp Stampede, which stamps messages condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates of unlimited, anonymous political campaign spending.

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GOP declares war on itself

GOP power-brokers have raised a $50M war-chest to fight the nomination of "fools" to GOP seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. Effectively, the Republican big-business-friendly establishment has declared war on the Tea Party, in an effort to ensure donors that the slate will not be full of what Matt Taibbi calls "a bottomless pit of brainless Bachmanns and Cruzes and Santorums, all convinced our Harvard-educated president is a sleeper-cell Arab and that Satan is a literal being intent on conquering Nebraska with U.N. troops."

Taibbi is, as always, fucking incandescent on the subject. He points out the delicious irony of svengalis like Karl Rove and Dick Armey -- who put GW Bush in the White House by gleefully pandering to the ignorant and prejudiced with "faith-based initiatives" to bring in "the nuts" (as Rove calls evangelicals when he thinks he's in private) and Swift-Boating -- now having to keep those people from derailing the party and scaring off all the millionaires and billionaires.

If they're going to keep on donating to the GOP, they need to be assured that the party's elected reps understand that gay marriage and no-abortion-for-rape-victims are just distracting side-shows to win votes, and should be set aside once in office to pursue the serious business of looting the nation and spying on everyone to prevent any kind of popular uprising.

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Republicans against evolution

Republicans are increasingly skeptical of evolution. All in all, a third of Americans reject evolution. Cory 104

Stross on Unix religion

Unix history: a religious perspective. (I like the idea of Linux as a Protestant Reformation: "a new, freely copyable kernel that all the faithful could read with their own eyes") Cory 30

Atheist Christmas carol: There's No Christmas in Hell

Sean sends us, "An atheist Christmas anthem, written by Pillow Army frontman Tim Franklin," and adds: "(Pillow Army opened for/played with Cory at a Seattle stop on a book tour a few years ago)."

They certainly did. Pillow Army has since become one of my favorite acts (check out Model Citizen from To Comfort And Destroy). Nice to see Tim rockin' for the holidays!

Tim Franklin - "There's No Christmas In Hell (And That's Why I'm So Sad)" (Thanks, Sean!)

Pope says atheists are OK with Jesus, so long as they "do good"

Yesterday's Papal homily, delivered by the Pope without notes after conducting Mass in his residence, included a story about a priest who told an atheist that he was redeemed by Jesus just as a Catholic would be, so long as the atheist "did good."

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Churches lo-jack their Nativity Jesuses

The headline says it all: a rash of Nativity-Jesus snatchings from churchyards has prompted high-tech, GPS-based countermeasures. Cory 44

Who put the "X" in "Xmas"

Turns out, it was the Greeks. Χριστος is how you write "Christ" in Greek and writers (including people who transcribed the Bible) have been using "X" as a convenient abbreviation of that since at least the 3rd and 4th centuries. Maggie 38

Satanists offer "good taste" monument to complement Oklahoma Capitol's Ten Commandments monument


Oklahoma City's state capitol is home to a controversial monument to the Ten Commandments, donated by Broken Arrow Republican Rep. Mike Ritze. The state legislature has been adamant that a religious monument on the lawn somehow didn't violate the principle of separation of church and state. Taking them at their word, NYC's Satanic Temple would like to see a monument to Satanic principles placed on the lawn alongside of it. They're raising funds for monument on Indiegogo, and insist that it will be "in good taste and consistent with community standards." Naturally, the state lawmakers are satisfyingly incandescent at the prospect. The ACLU is suing to abolish religious monuments on the state capital grounds altogether.

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